The journey to Koh Tao was a bit of a rough one. We flew from Yangon to Bangkok and had a night there before catching the overnight train, and both of us managed to get food poisoning in Bangkok! So we were feeling decidedly poorly on the train the following evening.
The ferry crossing from Chumphon to Koh Tao was so rough that about a third of the boat was seasick. But arriving in Koh Tao was like arriving in paradise – soft white sand, turquoise blue water, palm trees (etc. etc.). Bliss!
Both of us had been keen to learn to scuba dive for a few years, so when we found out that Koh Tao was scuba heaven (and cheap to learn compared to NZ), we jumped at the chance. We did our SSI Open Water Diver course with Scuba Junction at Sairee Beach, which cost 9000 baht ($350 NZD). Our instructor G was great – very professional and friendly.
The course took three days plus a 1-hour orientation the day before the course started. We did our ‘pool dives’ (the ones where you learn how to equalise, and do basic skills like taking your mask off underwater) in the tepid waters off Sairee Beach, which was really fun because we could see fish and coral around us as we were waiting for the others in our group to complete the skills. The good thing about Scuba Junction is that there is a maximum of 4 divers per instructor.
We completed four dives over the other two days (plus a bit of on-land theory and video watching, very easy stuff!) at a couple of different sites off Koh Tao. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t great during the time we were there, as the tail end of the monsoon hadn’t quite buggered off, so the sea was quite rough and most days were overcast, so the visibility in the water wasn’t all that good. Still, we had a couple of good dives and saw some cool fish – moray eels, puffer fish, clown fish (Nemo’s), juvenile harlequin sweetlips (my favourite!), a lion fish, a scorpion fish, and numerous other fish too! It was a great place to get qualified to dive, lots of fun and pretty easy – and now we can dive anywhere in the world to a depth of 18 m!
Some friends from NZ, Pia and Mike, joined us on Koh Tao after we finished our dive course, and we stayed at Anankhira Villa with them. The villa was amazing – it even had its own private plunge pool!
One day we hired a Yamaha Rhino (an ATV) from Lederhosen Bikes and zoomed around the island. The roads in Koh Tao are pretty shocking, lots of potholes and dirt roads. The Rhino was great – really grunty on the steep roads and good for the four of us to fit in (Pia and I sat in the tray in the back!). We went to some of the smaller beaches and it was really cool to see more of the island than just Sairee Beach!
We celebrated New Year’s Eve by partying on the sand at Sairee Beach, complete with fireworks being lit far too close to the crowds of people, fire dancers, bars playing competing music, and seeing hundreds of lanterns being lit. It was an excellent way to ring in 2014!
Next stop: Koh Samui.